The Divine Comedy (December 20, 2012)

…Opening To…

God’s glory, now, is kindled gentler than low candlelight
Under the rafters of a barn:
Eternal Peace is sleeping in the hay,
And Wisdom’s born in secret in a straw-roofed stable. (Thomas Merton)

…Listening In…

Suddenly a great assembly of the heavenly forces was with the angel praising God. They said, “Glory to God in heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors.” When the angels returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go right now to Bethlehem and see what’s happened. Let’s confirm what the Lord has revealed to us.” They went quickly and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in the manger. (Luke 2:13-16; context)

…Filling Up…

Yesterday, we talked about the shepherds being unlikely people for God to confide in. They were the ancient world’s equivalent of the guitarist-whose-band-is-really-about-to-explode-if-they-just-get-their-act-together whom you brought home to mom and dad. They were looked on with suspicion by the city-dwellers, but even with that cloud above them, they were also something besides outcasts.

They were normal. They were just normal guys who happened to look after flocks for a living. This brings me to a wondering question about the verses above. I wonder what exactly they saw when they came upon Mary and Joseph and the baby Jesus. I wonder this because, even with the pronouncements about his fate and parentage and divinity, Jesus was human, as well. He was just a baby lying in an irregular crib. His mother was no doubt wracked from labor, but also filled with joy at the safe delivery of her son. His adoptive father was no doubt alternating between worrying about the comfort of his fiancée and comparing the impossibly small fingers of the infant to his own.

Into this scene, the shepherds burst. Can you imagine a grungy garage band of complete strangers busting into the delivery suite at a hospital? Well, that’s about what happened, except it was a barn since delivery suites were a few millennia from construction (not to mention garages). If the scene weren’t shrouded in both the gossamer of mystery and the wool of tradition, it would be comical.

Indeed, it is comical – in the academic sense of the word (a surprise conclusion that subverts expectations (I just made that up, by the way, but it sounds academic, right?)). In this scene, we are witness to the punch line of a divine joke. But remember what Paul says about God’s comedy. “The foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom.” The messianic expectations of the people of Israel looked for a military savior with a strong jaw and lots of chariots. What they got was a baby with impossibly small fingers.

…Praying For…

Dear God, thank you for the gift of your Son. Help me to look for him in surprising places where I do not expect to find him. In Jesus Christ’s name I pray. Amen.

…Sending Out…

I leave this moment with you, God, as living vessel for holding the light of your son, as was the manger on that holy night.

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